New York: Serena Williams does not enjoy viewing videos of her losses. Not one bit. She used to engage in that sort of film work, Williams said, but “it was so painful it was like stabbing myself.”
So even though Williams knew her third-round opponent at the US Open would be the same woman she lost to at the Australian Open, preparing by studying a replay of that January defeat simply was out of the question.
But that didn’t seem to matter at all. After splitting Saturday’s first eight games against 42nd-ranked Ekaterina Makarova of Russia, the fourth-seeded Williams got into high gear and breezed to a 6-4, 6-0 victory, reeling off the last eight games in a row.
“Definitely was motivated. Knowing that I lost and could definitely happen again. Did not want that to happen,” said Williams, who hit 13 aces to raise her tour-leading total this season to 408.
“I really hate watching matches that I lose, unless I’m punishing myself,” added the 14-time Grand Slam champion. “I didn’t punish myself.”
She hasn’t been losing much lately.
Since the only first-round Grand Slam exit of her career, against 111th-ranked Virginie Razzano at the French Open on May 29, Williams is 22-1 in singles, including the title at Wimbledon and gold medal at the London Olympics.
That sort of excellence sure saves money for clothes: Williams said she threw out all of the dresses she brought to Paris to wear during matches there.
No such problems so far in New York, where Williams has dropped only 12 games entering her fourth-round match against 82nd-round Andrea Hlavackova of Czech Republic. Hlavackova, the 2011 French Open doubles champion, bawled on court after her 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 win over 14th-seeded Maria Kirilenko, whose boyfriend, Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin, was in New York to cheer for her.
The woman Williams beat in the Wimbledon final, second-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska, dealt with the 90-degree heat and former No. 1 Jelena Jankovic with equal aplomb during a 6-3, 7-5 victory.
“I was melting there,” Radwanska said. “I survived the match.”
She wasn’t the only one who felt that way.
On Saturday against Makarova, things were even at four-all in the first set, before Williams held serve to go up 5-4. In the next game, Williams broke the left-handed Makarova for the first time to take the opening set and seize control in Arthur Ashe Stadium.
At 15-all, Williams hit a backhand winner down the line. Then she earned a set point with big forehand to a corner that allowed her to put away a swinging backhand volley winner. And when Makarova pushed a down-the-line forehand long to cap the set, Williams let out a loud, excited yell of “Come on!”
Beginning to put the match out of reach, Williams got another break point the next time Makarova served with a reflex forehand volley passing shot off an overhead, and followed up with a strong backhand approach that her opponent couldn’t handle. That made it 2-0 in the second set, and Williams’ older sister, seven-time major champion Venus, applauded from her seat in the stands.
In all, Williams won 32 of 40 points on her serve and never faced a break point.
By the time it was over, she also held a 31-10 edge in winners, moving a step closer to adding a fourth US Open trophy to the ones she won in 1999, 2002 and 2008.
The last time these two women played each other, it wasn’t close, either. The difference, surprisingly, was that Makarova won 6-2, 6-3 in the fourth round in Melbourne. She got plenty of help from seven double-faults and 37 total unforced errors by Williams, who joked that day, “Maybe I should have started serving lefty.”
That loss remains the only one for Williams in 22 Grand Slam matches against lefties.
“She served so much better than she did in Australia. So when she’s serving that good, it’s really tough to play against her,” Makarova said. “I knew she would start aggressive, because that’s how it is anytime she loses and she really wants to beat someone.”
After Saturday’s victory in the rematch, Williams, who turns 31 this month, was asked during an on-court interview about decisions by her contemporaries Andy Roddick, 30, and Kim Clijsters, 29, to quit professional tennis after the US Open.
“I’m nowhere near close to retiring,” Williams replied, drawing a roar of approval from the crowd. “I can’t leave you guys. I love this sport way too much, and now that Andy and Kim are done, I feel that I need to stay out here for the tennis. I’m not going anywhere.”